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Suffolk DA Rollins says it was ‘surreal’ to hear Sen. Cotton attack her record during US attorney nomination hearing

FILE- In this June 26, 2018, file photo, then-Suffolk County District Attorney Democratic candidate Rachael Rollins addresses an audience, in Boston. President Joe Biden's pick for U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts has hit a snag as a key U.S. Senate panel deadlocked Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, over the nomination of Rollins as the state's top federal prosecutor. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)Steven Senne/Associated Press

Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins said Monday that it was “surreal” to hear Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton attack her record during last week’s hearing on her US attorney nomination held before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which ultimately deadlocked on whether to move her nomination to the full chamber.

Rollins made the comments during her regular appearance on GBH Radio’s Boston Public Radio program, when hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan asked her about the kerfuffle down in the Beltway.

“Well, it was surreal guys,” said Rollins, a progressive prosecutor who’s made waves in Suffolk County by declining to prosecute a number of low-level crimes. “It just happened to be my name, but there are so many other exceptional elected prosecutors that are doing this work every single day and trying to.”


Despite the committee snag, Rollins sounded an optimistic note about her chances at ultimately being confirmed as the next US attorney for Massachusetts.

“I remain optimistic, and look forward to the confirmation in the full Senate,” Rollins said. “And it’s a tie, it’s not a loss.”

Rollins, in citing a tie, was referring to Thursday’s 11-11 vote in the Judiciary Committee on moving her nomination to the full Senate. The deadlock now forces a vote by the full Senate just to bring her nomination to the floor for another, final up-or-down vote on the nomination itself.

The tie in the judiciary panel came after Cotton, a Republican on the committee, blasted what he said was Rollin’s soft-on-crime record.

“Miss Rollins appears to measure success as a prosecutor not by how many victims and innocent people she protects, but rather by how many criminals she keeps from facing consequences,” said Cotton, a potential 2024 presidential candidate who’s leading the charge against her. “If she’s confirmed as the US attorney, the cartels and the gangs that are fueling violence and death in our communities will be gleeful.”


Rollins on Monday forcefully pushed back on that characterization of her record as a prosecutor.

She noted the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court had just affirmed the first-degree murder conviction of Edwin Alemany, who was found guilty in Suffolk Superior Court in the abduction and brutal murder of Amy E. Lord, a 24-year-old woman kidnapped in front of her South Boston apartment in 2013. Alemany is serving a life term.

“Our office, under previous administrations and certainly under mine, were fighting like hell, excuse my language, to make sure that that conviction ... will remain, essentially, for the Lord family,” Rollins said. “I look at this and I say, I am pro justice. And whether that justice is accountability for families, but it’s also justice to make sure that the system works all the time, and I’m not going to be silent when it doesn’t.”

Pressed by Braude on how it felt to hear Cotton attack her record, Rollins reiterated that “it’s not about” her personally.

“But when you hear your name said, it feels personal,” Rollins said. “Look, I am overjoyed that we are having a conversation about criminal justice reform.”

She said Boston remains one of the few cities in the US where violent crime is trending down.

“So what is just astonishing to me, and forget about the Senate process, just generally speaking as a candidate, and when I first came in as DA, when people would say things and you just look and say, ‘I wish I lived a life where I could just say something out loud, wouldn’t have to cite a single thing in support of it, and the media just gobbled it up like delicious peach cobbler,’” Rollins said.


She insisted the data is on her side.

“We have the data, and it’s from the Boston Police Department,” she said. “What is happening in Suffolk County in Boston is working. That doesn’t mean we don’t have tons more work to do. Right? Because one murder is one too many. But we need to be very proud, and by ‘we’ I mean the Boston police, Mass. State Police, Winthrop, Chelsea, Revere, and Transit [police], in the exceptional work they’re doing to make sure violent crimes continue trending downward in Boston.”

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.